Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024 | Viewed by 9470

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
School of Philosophy & Theology, University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, WA 6160, Australia
Interests: catholic education; faith and culture; systematic theology
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, WA 6160, Australia
Interests: ideas, art and architecture of the Middle Ages; issues surrounding philosophy of the human person; political philosophy; philosophy of culture; dynamic relationship between faith and reason in the catholic intellectual tradition
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Pope Francis is convinced that a synodal style of governance is precisely what the Holy Spirit is asking the Catholic Church to adopt at this time in its history. He has initiated a worldwide process whereby synodality will become the mode of being of the Church (its modus vivendi et operandi) and demonstrable in all its contexts and endeavours.[1] Theologians recognise that this impetus is not merely a passing preoccupation of a particular papacy but a new phase in the reception of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, by which the Church realises its nature as a global faith community. 

Synodality reveals itself in how the Church goes about its daily business and affairs, “expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel”[2]. If it is genuinely operative, synodality will manifest itself not only in the manner by which, for example, the Roman curia operates, parishes and dioceses are administered but also in the way Church finances are accounted for. It will also impact upon Catholic education, particularly so, given how central this is to the life of the Church. It will influence, therefore, how Catholic schools and colleges operate, how religious education and catechetics are taught, ministers formed, sacraments prepared for, and so on. Synodality, when fully embraced, will impact not only upon what is taught in Catholic education institutions but also upon the pedagogies employed in the teaching of it and the distinctive modes and styles of governance Catholic educational institutes adopt.

So far in the discussions of synodality, these matters have received little attention. The aim of this Special Issue is to address this deficit by exploring the implications of synodality for Catholic education in all its facets and manifestations. By Catholic education, of course, we mean what occurs in the familiar settings of Catholic primary, post-primary, and higher education institutions. However, education and formation that takes place in less formal educational contexts in dioceses and other Catholic-led institutions and communities is also in need of consideration.

It has been suggested that the synodal pathway is having little or no impact on Catholic higher education institutions, whether because of apathy among those in charge, faculty who prefer to distance themselves from ecclesial concerns, or other more pressing demands on the time and energies of students and staff.[3] Is this a widespread reality, and if so, what are its causes and what can or should be done about it? What challenges and opportunities does a synodal style in the Church raise for Catholic educators and the schools and colleges in which they work? Can a synodal style turn out to be a ‘unique selling point’ for Catholic education in secular culture or will it prove to be an impossible burden? We invite you to submit papers on these or any of the following topics:

  • Readings of magisterial teaching on Catholic education, including Gravissimum educationis, and recent instructions from the Holy See’s Dicastery for Culture and Education, in the light of Pope Francis’ vision for a synodal Church.
  • Learning and teaching skills for ecclesial discernment and decision making.
  • Forming Catholics for a synodal church.
  • Publicly-funded Catholic educational institutions: a particular challenge for synodal styles of governance?
  • Participative styles of management and leadership in Catholic education institutions in light of synodality.
  • The power, authority, and governance of Catholic education being reconsidered in the light of synodality.
  • Comparisons between synodal and secular styles of management and leadership in Catholic schools and colleges.
  • Curriculum and pedagogy in the areas of catechetics and formation programmes in a synodal Church.
  • The impact of synodality on the mission and identity in Catholic educational institutions.
  • The interface between synodality, integral human development, and the common good.
  • Synodality and ecological education.
  • Synodality: a new impetus for formation in servant leadership.

Original research articles and reviews are welcome in this Special Issue. The above list of topics should be understood as indicative only; other related topics will also be considered. In particular, the editors encourage the submission of papers that have been co-authored by emerging and early-career researchers working in collaboration with scholars already established in their respective fields of expertise.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

[1] Preparatory Document for the Synod of Bishops 2021–2023.

[2] See the Vademecum for the Assembly of Bishops in Synod 2023, 1.2. https://www.synod.va/en/documents/vademecum.html accessed Sept 4 2021.

[3] https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/catholic-colleges-synod.

Prof. Dr. Eamonn Conway
Prof. Dr. Renée Köhler-Ryan
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • synod
  • synodality
  • Catholic education
  • pedagogy
  • Church
  • Pope Francis
  • teaching
  • religious education
  • faith formation
  • governance
  • Catholic schools
  • Catholic higher education
  • leadership
  • discernment
  • decision making
  • bishops
  • teachers
  • parish
  • Gravissimum educationis
  • Vatican

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 250 KiB  
Article
Synodality and Its Implications for Catholic Schools: An Exploratory Study of System Leaders in Western Canadian Catholic Schools
by Matt Hoven, Eugenia Pagnotta-Kowalczyk and Dean Sarnecki
Religions 2024, 15(4), 491; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040491 - 16 Apr 2024
Viewed by 649
Abstract
Pope Francis’s dream for a synodal Church has implications for Catholic schools globally, but what exactly are these consequences? This paper explores Francis’s vision in the context of Canadian Catholic schools in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories (NWT), where these schools are [...] Read more.
Pope Francis’s dream for a synodal Church has implications for Catholic schools globally, but what exactly are these consequences? This paper explores Francis’s vision in the context of Canadian Catholic schools in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories (NWT), where these schools are fully-funded by the government and enroll nearly a quarter million students. Ten exploratory interviews with chief superintendents from these schools—which formed the basis of a larger study—were analyzed to understand potential connections to Francis’s vision and his four commitments to synodality: focusing on relationships, a culture of encounter, the essentials of the Christian faith, and local decision-making. The pope differentiates synodality from democratic forms of leadership and demands a communal form of listening and discerning God’s Spirit. While the superintendents’ style of leadership appeared to mirror synodality in many ways, predominant issues remain to be explored: an emphasis on relationships upends the status quo and gives new directions for the schools; encountering others will inevitably demand prophetic leadership by the system leaders; leading with the essentials of faith will not please everyone in Catholic schooling; and shared authority among the superintendents, bishops, and trustees requires further dialogue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church)
9 pages, 245 KiB  
Article
A Narrative Approach to Discerning Some Key Issues for Catholic Education in a More Synodal Church
by Richard Rymarz
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1121; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091121 - 30 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 675
Abstract
Synodality is described as a mentality that esteems three actions: encountering, listening. and discerning. This mentality is applied to a discourse on Catholic education premised on three illustrative narratives. Narratives are used as a suitable instrument to gain deep insights into the lived [...] Read more.
Synodality is described as a mentality that esteems three actions: encountering, listening. and discerning. This mentality is applied to a discourse on Catholic education premised on three illustrative narratives. Narratives are used as a suitable instrument to gain deep insights into the lived experience of teachers working in Catholic schools. Several concurrent themes are identified as emerging issues for a more synodal church. These include challenges in providing enough teachers to animate the religious identity of schools. This is linked to profound changes in patterns of religious affiliation that have been evident for several decades. Considering this, acknowledgement needs to be made that the lived experience of teachers entering Catholic education today is distinctive and different from previous generations. In light of this, a number of points of discernment are made. These include the need for ongoing, nuanced teacher recruitment and formation, as well as a reconceptualization of religious education (RE) to take into account changing cultural dynamics and providing more practical support for teachers, especially RE teachers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church)
13 pages, 258 KiB  
Article
Friendship and Spiritual Learning: Seedbed for Synodality
by John William Sullivan
Religions 2023, 14(5), 592; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050592 - 1 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1296
Abstract
In the literature about learning in general and also with regard to faith learning, the experience and practice of friendship has been neglected. In the early years of the church, and at various other times, social networks of Christians preserved and handed on [...] Read more.
In the literature about learning in general and also with regard to faith learning, the experience and practice of friendship has been neglected. In the early years of the church, and at various other times, social networks of Christians preserved and handed on the life of faith without the benefit of formal educational institutions or strong ecclesial structures. This article explores the potential of friendship to contribute to the kind of spiritual learning that underpins synodality. The experience of friendship plays an important role in how people access, interpret, welcome and embrace truth and in their paths towards transformation. Friendship is considered here as a form of peer ministry. There can be no social friendship, along the lines advocated by Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti, without the laboratory and engine room of everyday personal friendships. Key features of friendship are related to the implications of synodality and to the conditions that support spiritual learning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church)
13 pages, 276 KiB  
Article
From Change to Transformation: Living Synodality in Ministry with Young Adults
by Tracey Lamont
Religions 2023, 14(3), 314; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030314 - 27 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2249
Abstract
Pope Francis is calling on Catholic ministry leaders to embrace a more synodal church, a way of listening to the fruits of the Spirit and journeying together as people of faith. Research reveals, however, that many young people have yet to experience this [...] Read more.
Pope Francis is calling on Catholic ministry leaders to embrace a more synodal church, a way of listening to the fruits of the Spirit and journeying together as people of faith. Research reveals, however, that many young people have yet to experience this way of being church. This essay proposes a need to transform rather than change ministry with young people to embrace a postmodern curriculum framework rooted in a theology of synodality aimed at cultivating prophetic, transformative, communal experiences of the divine in the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church)
12 pages, 283 KiB  
Article
A Spiritual Theology of Synodality: Towards a Thinking Heart in Catholic Education
by Glenn Morrison
Religions 2023, 14(2), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020201 - 2 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2472
Abstract
Spiritual theology inspires a life of faith towards wisdom and discernment as much as inviting a developing pastoral sense of God’s mysteries into a life of service, holiness and humility. Akin to practical theology, spiritual theology is fragmented and interconnects with all areas [...] Read more.
Spiritual theology inspires a life of faith towards wisdom and discernment as much as inviting a developing pastoral sense of God’s mysteries into a life of service, holiness and humility. Akin to practical theology, spiritual theology is fragmented and interconnects with all areas of theology. The article sets out to put spiritual theology into service to present Pope Francis’ ecclesial turn towards synodality within a spiritual and ethical metaphysical domain. To this end, the article also employs the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to help bring out the effect and contribution of spiritual theology upon synodality. The aim here is to develop Pope Francis’ hope and vision of synodality of journeying together through mission and dialogue by way of conversion and reform, hospitality, gentleness and listening. The article, in conclusion, moves forward to look at how synodal spirituality may also orient a thinking heart in Catholic Education. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education and Pope Francis’ Dream for a Synodal Church)
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